The Significance Of Sharing
With DaPoPa, choreographer Clint Lutes invites people with and without Parkinson’s Disease to dance together
Movement has a healing effect on people with movement disorders, like Parkinson’s. That has been proven over the last twenty years by scientific studies – as well as by artistic research projects. Dancer and choreographer Clint Lutes has co-founded DaPoPa (Danse Pour Parkinson), an artistic research project and inclusive dance program. It uses the physical knowledge of professional dancers to create artistic movement experiences for very diverse groups. At Potsdamer Tanztage, Clint Lutes will teach a workshop based on (t)his practice.
In 2015, I was invited by Theater Freiburg to participate in the year-long German/Israeli research project Störung/Hafra’ah. With a team comprised of more than 40 choreographic artists (including Berlin-based artists Matan Zamir and Nicola Mascia), scientists and people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease embarked on a journey to explore movement and what it means to gradually lose control of it. Various universities as well as the Yasmeen Godder Company participated in the project, which was primarily funded by the Bundeskulturstiftung.
Pure research was conducted in which everyone’s expertise was valued as equal and necessary to the process. There was no intended goal; no expectations of a final choreographic piece nor aim to publish the result of our research. Ultimately, Yasmeen’s company created two choreographic pieces ("Common Emotion” and "Simple Action”) and some resulting findings were published and presented as part of conferences and journals.
Physical practice informing scientific research
The ensuing classes, presentations, discussions, performances and exchanges that took place provided the opportunity to reevaluate my choreographic tools. Guided by Monica Gillette’s idea (a long term collaborator, awarded the Shimon Peres Prize alongside Yasmeen Godder in 2017 for their work on the project), we were encouraged to explore how the accumulated physical knowledge of professional dance artists and their varied practice is valuable to other fields of study and communities. How does physical practice inform scientific research? How can we use the choreographic process to question and work through diverse issues or conflicts? Similarly, how can artistic practices be fed through contact with other communities?
In the last twenty years, dance for Parkinson’s programs have been initiated all over the world guided by Dance for PD, created by the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group and the Mark Morris Dance Company and directed by the dancer David Leventhal. This work has sparked the interest of scientists and resulted in a plethora of studies that show the benefits of dance for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Artistic and not (only) therapeutic work
Having benefited enormously from this experience, I felt I had only scratched the surface and in the spring of 2016 I organized several free workshops in Grenoble (F) at the CDC Le Pacifique and at DaPoPa’s partner institution l’Album-AbcDanse. The positive response was immediate and resulted in weekly classes in Grenoble and monthly workshops in Paris. More recently we have presented our work to medical and dance students, conducted workshops in retirement homes and given lecture demonstrations as well as conference presentations.
Our inclusive program primarily uses improvisation and somatic practices. These movement methods inform personal and environmental awareness to increase creativity and communication skills and boost self-confidence as well as connectivity through intergenerational and mixed ability activities. A team of accomplished dance artists brings a wealth of choreographic, somatic and teaching experience to DaPoPa’s activities and invests in organizational, social, philosophical and identity development. Our volunteer base is made up of physical therapists, librarians, doctors, festival directors, architects, engineers and more.
The gift of different physical abilities
Moving forward, our focus will remain on artistic collaboration rather than therapeutic activities. Although one may experience therapeutic benefits while dancing, our goal is not to heal or make participants "feel better”. We are together in a room engaged outwardly with proposed material and with one another and inwardly to ourselves, our sensations, our needs. We are interested in the significance of shared practice within a group whose ages range from 20 to 80 years old and whose physical rhythms and abilities are informed by different life experience.
Our main struggle is with administration, financial backing, lack of personnel etc., but the rewards remain clear. When I go to the studio and see people’s eyes light up, their brains turn on, their questions and bodies intertwine, I realize what a gift I and everyone in the room have been given. Everyone is learning, moving, engaging their attention and intentions clearly and differently and brings all their history, abilities and fears with them. Dancing with groups in this new way has brought different light to my practice, a freshness and urgency, giving new importance to my work as a dancer.
PS: The workshop I will lead in Potsdam from June 5th to 7th is not intended solely for people with Parkinson’s as the shared experience will be even richer if the group is a mosaic of cultures, ages, experiences, bodies and brains.
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